- An outstanding pressing of this nearly perfect Sly record with two sides that both earned Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER for their sound
- Real resolution to the sound, not the opacity and blur you would expect from a greatest hits compilation
- Exceptionally quiet vinyl throughout – Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus – they didn’t press them any quieter
- “This summarizes their first four albums perfectly, adding the singles “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin),” and “Everybody Is a Star,” possibly the loveliest thing they ever recorded… Greatest hits don’t come better than this — in fact, music rarely does.”
Both sides here have lively punchy drums; a big soundfield, front to back and side to side; tonally correct vocals (which obviously are key and sound edgy and thin on most copies), and real resolution to the sound overall, not the opacity and blur you would expect from a greatest hits compilation.
Also, and just as importantly, you lose the sibilance most copies suffer from and the smear on the horns goes away, thank goodness.
What the best sides of this Classic Sly and the Family Stone Album have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl domestic pressings like this one offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1970
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the horns, guitars, drums and percussion having the correct sound for this kind of record
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
What to Listen For (WTLF)
Less grit – smoother and sweeter sound, something that is not easy to come by on any Sly and the Family Stone album that we know of.
A bigger presentation – more size, more space, more room for all the instruments and voices to occupy. The bigger the speakers you have to play this record the better.
More bass and tighter bass. This is fundamentally a pure rock record. It needs weight down low to rock the way Glyn Johns wanted it to.
Present, breathy vocals. A veiled midrange is the rule, not the exception.
Good top end extension to reproduce the harmonics of the instruments and details of the recording including the studio ambience.
Last but not least, balance. All the elements from top to bottom should be heard in harmony with each other. Take our word for it, assuming you haven’t played a pile of these yourself, balance is not that easy to find.
Our best copies will have it though, of that there is no doubt.
Not only is it hard to find great copies of this album, it ain’t easy to play ’em either. You’re going to need a hi-res, super low distortion front end with careful adjustment of your arm in every area — VTA, tracking weight, azimuth and anti-skate — in order to play this album properly. If you’ve got the goods you’re gonna love the way this copy sounds. Play it with a budget cart / table / arm and you’re likely to hear a great deal less magic than we did.
Three Epic Labels To Choose From
There are three Epic labels for this record; the originals are yellow, the first reissue is orange, and the last reissue is black. I can tell you that only one of those labels produced truly good sounding copies in our shootout. Beyond that, you will have to buy a sample of each and do your own shootout. Finding clean copies was quite difficult; it took us a long time to get enough to play, and, as we said, most pressings are dreadful. Those of you who like to read our commentaries and play along at home are going to have a rough time with this title. We sure did, until we got it figured out. Now it’s as easy as pie.
Read the AMG rave in the tab above. Music just doesn’t get any better. If this album doesn’t lift your spirits, I can’t imagine what would. And note that many of the best songs here are exclusive to this greatest hits and cannot be found on any other album. That makes it a Must Own in our book.
I Want to Take You Higher
Everybody Is a Star
You Can Make It If You Try
Dance to the Music
Hot Fun in the Summertime
Sing a Simple Song
Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)
Released in 1970 during the stopgap between Stand! and There’s a Riot Goin’ On, Greatest Hits inadvertently arrived at precisely the right moment, summarizing Sly & the Family Stone’s joyous hit-making run on the pop and R&B charts. Technically, only four songs here reached the Top Ten, with only two others hitting the Top 40, but judging this solely on charts is misleading, since this is simply a peerless singles collection.
This summarizes their first four albums perfectly (almost all of Stand! outside of the two jams and “Somebody’s Watching You” is here), adding the non-LP singles “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin),” and “Everybody Is a Star,” possibly the loveliest thing they ever recorded.
But, this isn’t merely a summary (and, if it was just that, Anthology, the early-’80s comp that covers Riot and Fresh would be stronger than this), it’s one of the greatest party records of all time. Music is rarely as vivacious, vigorous, and vibrant as this, and captured on one album, the spirit, sound, and songs of Sly & the Family Stone are all the more stunning.
Greatest hits don’t come better than this — in fact, music rarely does.